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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  October 5, 2017 2:30am-2:58am BST

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gunman — who was in the philippines at the time of the massacre. marilou danley described stephen paddock as "kind, caring, and quiet" — and said she had no idea what he was planning. president trump has visited las vegas — to offer his support and thank the emergency services. he said "america is truly a nation in mourning" in the wake of the mass killings that left 58 people dead and more than 500 injured. the shooting has prompted calls for reform to us gun laws. the spanish government has rejected a call by the catalan leader for mediation over the region's demands for independence. madrid said it would not accept "blackmail" from carles puigdemont. the recent referendum has been declared unlawful by spain and the european commission. now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk.
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i'm stephen sackur. my guest today is a legend in the music business. he has written and performed some of the most memorable tracks of the last four decades. nile rodgers co—founded chic, the band which defined the late 70s disco generation. from his own band to his collaborations with everyone from madonna to daft punk, his beat goes on. now he is releasing another chic album. so what makes his sound and his spirit so special? nile rodgers, welcome to hardtalk.
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thank you. for four decades you have found a way to reach out to every successive generation of music lovers. what is the secret to that success? i am not really sure. 0therwise, every record i put out would be a hit. ijust do what feels natural to me. and i have to admit that when it was earlier in my career, i knew that i wanted to make a living doing music. so when i was younger, it was a little bit more calculated. i was actually trying to make hits. before we get going on your career, i want to talk about your childhood. i have read enough to know there was lots of music in your childhood, a lot of creativity, but also an awful lot of chaos as well. and ijust wonder,
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when you reflect on it now, thinking about your mum who had you when she was 13, thinking about the fact your parents were, frankly, junkies for a while, how... frankly is correct. ..how close to sort of teetering over the edge into total chaos did you and your childhood get? um, it made... from the outside looking in, it might have seemed chaotic, but there was actually a fair amount of order to our chaos, because by my parents being so dysfunctional and self—centred, it made me take on adult responsibilities at a very early age. i remember while i was doing my autobiography, i got to one chapter and i said — i believe i said i was the oldest nine—year—old in the world, because at that point my stepfather, who was white — which was an interesting dynamic in the black community, because we were raised in the bohemian part of the hip community... well, actually it was already
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bohemian, but the ghetto, the puerto rican community, it was very poor, but it was still a very cool lifestyle that my parents had. but when my stepfather had his first overdose, we were living in a puerto rican community and i remember coming home to have a big thanksgiving meal and the amount of police that came to attend to him seemed incredible, like a total tactical assault, when meanwhile i had seen black people and puerto rican people die of heroin overdoses,
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and it wasn't that big a deal. that was when i first became aware of... being white in america meant more than being black. so it was a tricky lifestyle. but there was real... as i said, a real sense of order. as i got that life lesson, i got many more byjust coming home from school and expecting dinner to be made and my parents were off doing whatjunkies did. let's get into the music business. you had been around for a little while. it seems to me the key was the amazing chemistry you developed with your partner in music, bernard edwards, and it was he and you who founded chic. correct. we need to talk about chic. when you talk about being the number one, chic were described as the number one disco band in the world in late 70s. what was the essence of the chic sound? there was a certain raw honesty to our style of grooving. it was based on, sort of, jazz, harmonic movements, chord changes... but we didn't base the chic sound
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on traditional blues or gospel. that was probably the biggest difference between us and a lot of other r&b groups. we were going for a more refined sound. even though we were raw and we did everything the way everyone else did, we approached it with an air of sophistication that wasn't quite in vogue just yet. or we didn't know if it would be in vogue. i tell you what, cast your eyes to that screen — we will take you down memory lane. this is from 1979, this is le freak. # have you heard about the new dance craze? # listen to us, i'm sure you'll be amazed... # big fun to be had by everyone... # it's up to you, it surely can be done... # young and old are doing it, i'm told... # just one try and you too will be sold...
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# it's called 'le freak', they're doing it night and day... # allow us, we'll show you the way... # ah, freak out! # le freak, c'est chic. # freak out! apart from the fact that you look even cooler today than you did back then, and you don't look any older, what strikes me about that is just that amazing driving bass. right. and the sort of brilliant interplay of voice and rhythm and beat and it is distinctive. listen to it for a second and you know that it is chic. and the sort of brilliant interplay
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of voice and rhythm and beat and it is distinctive. listen to it for a second and you know that it is chic. that is probably what i'm most proud of. when we started we had a concept but we didn't have any proof of concept. and a good friend of mine who recorded our very first composition i wrote for chic, everybody dance — i wrote a song, we didn't have enough money to get a copy. the only time i got to hear it was when we recorded it. fast forward three weeks later and he called me and said, "come and down and see something". i asked what it was and he said, "i can't explain it, come and see it". i walked into the club and he put the needle on the record and the whole crowd lets out a bloodcurdling scream. and they rush to the dancefloor. i said, "that's my song"! i am like a little kid.
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i can't believe it because it's only the second time i'm hearing my song. the interesting thing about chic was, your moment was short. from '77 through to '79 you were having hits, defining dance music around the globe and then it was gone and people moved against disco in a big way. i wonder, if you think about dance music that we have seen in the last couple of decades, everything from house to techno and hip—hop and everything else, when you listen to those dance genres today, do you still feel that what you did is a foundation? i won't claim to be... —— i won't claim to be... well, maybe foundation, yes, you are right. i don't want to have false modesty. yes, quite a number of music tracks cut nowadays are literally based on chic stuff. as a matter of fact, the first big gigantic hip—hop smash, rapper‘s delight, was a interpretation of chic‘s good times, and they even sampled our record to do the string parts. we still have an influence on current dance music. one thing that you said was really also very spot—on — the time
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of chic‘s reign went from the summer of 1977 to the summer of 1979. we were done. it was famous for people in music at the time — there was this movement driven by a couple of djs in america, against disco. they headlined it disco sucks and invited people to a baseball park in chicago where nearly 60,000 people brought disco records and they publicly trashed them, and it was like this moment when disco died. how did you feel then? at the moment that happened, i didn't feel anything — i thought it was a great publicity stunt. i didn't realise it would have a ripple effect that changed my life, and it changed my life in an instant. we went from heroes to zeros overnight, and what people don't realise is that in 1979,
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the year of disco sucks — i didn't realise this until the other day. i had two number one singles, one of them, le freak, still the largest selling single song in atlantic records history, and good times, which was the foundation of the first hip—hop record, rapper‘s delight. so two big number one hits in the same year from the same band and then come 1980 and we are persona non grata. thank god we had a deal with diana ross, because we could keep making hit records with other people. when you look back, i wonder if you feel there was something deeper going on thanjust a changing musical taste? midthamerica which'gssociatgdl increasingly confident 'out there‘ gay movement as well. indeed, yes.
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middle america wasn't comfortable with that and that's what was going on. did you see it that way? yeah, i did, as i said, only after, sort of, in the aftermath. i didn't see it during the day of the event or even the week or so after. but i saw what was bubbling under and coming to the surface. and it was frightening to me. do you still feel there is a current in america? 0h, indeed. things have changed so much in america. in your youth, you were in the black panther movement. you have a black president today. but you still have a suspicion between the black community and the police and you still have an america that is not at ease with the issue of race. i wonder how you reflect on that
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as a successful black man today? it's difficult to me, because when i was younger i was insanely idealistic, i believed we were working towards a future that wouldn't look like the current reality that we have now. on some level, it is heartbreaking. you do have a black president. doesn't that make a difference? well, yeah, but that's like... that's like saying, chic is the only band that had three number... it doesn't change the reality for most? right, it is the exception rather than the rule. president 0bama is an exceptional human being, incredibly smart. i mean, i remember... so, that... it's almost like my career. you know, when i have had hit records with people, those records have been the biggest records of their lives. now that's not normal for me. most of the records i put out are flops. you talk about these
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collaborations, and they have been phenomenally successful for so many of music's biggest stars. it's interesting for you, because you're the producer, the man behind the scenes, you create the sound and deliver the sound... but it doesn't put you out there as the big, big star yourself. does that suit you? i love that. i mean, the whole concept of chic was based on anonymity. i had seen roxy music a few months before we became chic and we were called the big apple band. i saw roxy music playing at some place like — i think it was called the roxy theater or the roxy playhouse or the roxy club
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